Louise Mosley and Neil Chamberlain left the UK in 2008 to live and work in some very exotic destinations before finally choosing Croatia as their new permanent home. Renovating an old house on the Pelješac peninsula has not all been plain sailing but the end result is a luxurious place for guests to stay and rest, in between participating in some unique local activities, and exploring a very special part of Croatia. In the interview below, Louise reveals some of the twists and turns of their journey to a point where they are ready to open the doors of The Sea Captain’s House.
1. Following on from destinations like the Caribbean, Central America, Indonesia and the Philippines, what was it that made you finally choose Croatia as a more permanent base? And why Pelješac?
When we left the UK we initially wanted to open a scuba diving business, hence destinations such as Indonesia and the Caribbean. However, after five years we took some time to re-evaluate what we really wanted and, whilst diving was still high on the list, it wasn’t the only thing. We listed out all the other qualities we wanted from our ideal location: stunning natural beauty, historic cities, great food & drink, variety of outdoor activities, proximity to other countries, easy trip from the UK…… the list went on. We had visited Croatia on holiday in 2004 and had loved it, so we decided to see how it faired against the list. It was a full house, ticks in every box, so it became more of a “Why not Croatia?”! As to why Pelješac, well it’s the perfect location to get away from it all and still be within easy access of towns and airports such as Dubrovnik and Split.
2. Could you tell us a little about The Sea Captain’s House, its history, renovation and your ambitions for it as a business?
Once we had decided on Pelješac, our search for the right place for our new business and home began. We considered a wide range of properties, everything from turnkey opportunities to pieces of land, but when we found the ruin in Škrabalici it just felt right.
The house was covered in greenery, the roof and floors were falling in, it wasn’t safe to enter the property, yet something about it made us think, “Yes, this is the one for us!”
Renovation of the house finally started in May 2015. It’s been a long project but well worth it!
We’ve been able to talk with the family whose grandmother once lived in the house. They are delighted that someone has returned the house to its former beauty. They have many photos and stories about the house, so we hope to sit down with them next year to learn more about its past.
Both Neil and I have many years of experience in customer service, in corporate and also in the hospitality industry. We’ve been lucky to stay in some of the best hotels worldwide and have taken all the best experiences and condensed them into this project.
We’ve taken an old ruin and are transforming it into a Boutique B & B, somewhere you can come and relax and do as much or as little as you want.
3. Clearly the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the timing of the opening of The Sea Captain’s House – has it affected you very much in other areas?
We are all healthy which is the main thing. My coaching business is predominately online so I have continued to support my clients using technology such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom etc. The main issue has been supporting relatives who have been shielding and also the restrictions to travel which have delayed the opening of The Sea Captain’s House by a year. Frustrating, but there’s always next year and compared to many other people we have been incredibly lucky.
4. Diving is clearly a big passion of yours; how does Croatia compare, as a diving destination, with other places you have dived in?
Diving in Croatia is clearly different from the Caribbean. However, there is still plenty to see with reefs, underwater caverns, canyons and plenty of wrecks. The clear water also makes it a haven for a huge variety of fish and marine life. You can see everything from octopus, sea hares, nudibranchs & sponges, to dolphins, seals, turtles and even whales.
For a very unusual dive there is also an underwater vineyard. The Edivo winery age their red wine at 20 metres below the surface of the Adriatic, providing a unique environment of constant temperature, light and pressure. You can dive to the underwater winery and collect your very own bottle of sunken treasure!
5. You will be offering a complete experience to your guests and not just accommodation. What kind of activities might a guest anticipate when they come to stay with you?
We aim to provide a haven for guests to recharge, refresh and rebalance. For guests who don’t want an all-inclusive holiday booked straight from a brochure, but also don’t want the hassle of booking a totally independent vacation, we will ensure that, throughout the planning, booking and the holiday itself, guests will receive exceptional high levels of service, so it’s a smooth, stress free & enjoyable experience.
The Sea Captain’s House is an ideal base from which to explore the beautiful Pelješac peninsula. Whether you want to enjoy the scenery on land, or take to the beautiful Adriatic sea, there is an activity for you. Walking, cycling, scuba diving, kite surfing, stand up paddle boarding, wind surfing and sailing are all available nearby.
There are numerous paths along the coast, through the vineyards and, for the more energetic, you can hike up St Ilija. From the 960 metre high summit you have spectacular views across to Korčula and along the peninsula. If you prefer something a little less strenuous then how about sampling some of the fantastic Croatian wine?
6. Construction of the Pelješac bridge is about to enter its final year, or so we are told; will this have an impact on your business and do you think it is generally a good thing for the region?
Most people you speak to on Pelješac are very positive about the bridge. The peninsula, whilst a stunning place to live, has limited facilities such as higher education, building supplies, clothes shops, home furnishing stores, so many residents have to travel to Split, Metković, or further afield to access these. Not having to take the long route via Ston and Neum, passing through border controls, or take the ferry, will have a big impact on their everyday lives.
As far as tourism is concerned, the bridge is viewed as a positive move which will increase the number of visitors. However, it does raise questions about the future of tourism in Croatian. Many feel that there needs to be a focus on quality – improving facilities and service, rather than catering for the masses.
7. How are you getting along with the Croatian Language and culture?
The Croatian language is challenging, even the locals say so! However, they are extremely encouraging and genuinely pleased that you are even attempting to learn their language. The Croatian Language School was a fantastic find! Linda is a great teacher and with the flexibility to have lessons online you can study from anywhere in the world.
I’m fascinated by different cultures which is one of the reasons I love to travel. One of the many things I love about the country and the people is their ability to put things into perspective and to focus on the things that really matter.
The Croatians have a term, Fjaka which refers to being truly in the moment. An article in the Dubrovnik Times explained it rather eloquently:
” To sit in the sun for a while. Relax. Watch the sea. Don’t think about what to write or where to go. Don’t think about tomorrow or even tonight. Turn your phone off. You have no goals for the next few hours.”
I think we all need a bit more Fjaka in our lives!
8. What would your top five tips be to anyone else thinking of moving to Croatia, buying an old house to renovate and setting up a business?
- It will take you longer, and cost you more, than you initially thought!
- Be clear on what you want to achieve – what you really want the business and the move to give you. The route to it may turn out differently but keep the end in mind.
- Croatia is so diverse, take some time enjoying the country, try different seasons, different regions. Pelješac is totally different in the winter compared to the summer season, so take this into account when making the decision where to make your base.
- Get good legal advice. Properties in Croatia can have many owners, so it’s essential to have clean title. Rules and regulations are constantly changing, particularly at the moment. Croatia is still integrating into the EU whilst the UK is leaving. You can’t be expected to understand it all, so ask for help and take advice.
- Learn the language. Even if you would normally define yourself as someone “who doesn’t do languages!”, give it a try. It will really help you to integrate into the local community. The more you can practice in everyday situations the more natural it will become. I’m looking forward to getting to know our community over a coffee and will be calling on the services of The Croatian Language School for help too!
9. Where can we find out more?
The following links will take you to our website and social media pages and the last link takes you to our detailed guide to Pelješac.